Sunday, August 7, 2016

Chipotle Copycat Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

Chipotle Copycat Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas are a luscious slow-cooked pork that is so soft and juicy, they melt in your mouth. Traditional Mexican cuisine would have you standing over a stove for hours, but who has that kind of time? This simple recipe is perfectly seasoned and creates a tender meat with robust flavors. The secret is 

a quick sear on the stovetop to lock in all of those succulent flavors and juices. After that it gets cooked in the slow cooker until it is fork tender and truly melts in your mouth. I toss it in and on everything.

It is absolutely amazing and I am sure you know why I had to make this recipe 8 times before we finally managed to get a photoshoot done. We just can't keep her hands off it!

Actually, my family is so spoiled with good food. We really prefer to eat at home. I just do not find myself enjoying eating out anymore, it is just such a disappointment most of the time. I thought it was just me and then I started noticing my family had the same opinion. As a matter of fact when I was planning a little get together for my daughter's 1st-grade 'graduation', I thought we would have a little dinner out with my in-laws to mark the accomplishment.

I asked Munchkin where she wanted to go. I named all of her 'favorite restaurants'. She looked at me with the sweetest eyes and said "Mommy can YOU cook dinner? I want your Mexican Rice Skillet". I am sure you know my heart grew 10 sizes that day (bursting with love and pride) and although we ended up going to dinner at a new restaurant that night, but you better believe I made her dinner that very next night.

I imagine it is the regional influence, but my family leans toward Mexican flavors, especially my daughter. Southwestern, Tex-Mex and of course Sonoran (a region of Mexico that borders Arizona) influences have really inspired the dishes that come out of my kitchen. Growing up every celebration dinner featured Italian food, and I giggle inside as I think about my mom and dad coming to visit when my daughter was born and I had prepared "Mexican Lasagna". My dad was like "what the @$^& is Mexican Lasagna? Where's the pasta???" LOL.

Anyway, back to my point... I really love the food at Chipotle Mexican Grill. It is my go-to on road trips. My favorite is the burrito salad. I love to pile the lettuce with pork carnitas, pinto beans, guacamole, cheese and a huge spoon of fresh salsa as my dressing. It is fresh, flavorful and it doesn't bloat me up. Because who wants to sit in the car when you feel like your jeans are going to pop open.

So, when we are home and I am craving those spectacular burrito salads and Chad wants a burrito, I start recipe developing. I have created many of my favorite recipes from Chipotle and some other favorites. But, whenever we are having a party or on a game day get together a Chipotle Buffet usually wins out.

The star of the show is this simple Pork Carnitas recipe. It is simply seasoned with salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme and bay. But, the flavor will knock your socks off.

It starts off being seared on the stovetop to create a layer of flavor that will really shine through.  The searing browns the meat and creates this caramelized reaction and the flavor is unbeatable!

Next, we transfer the pork to the crockpot and add in the remaining seasonings and deglaze the pan to scrape up all of the tasty brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Pour the juices into the slow cooker and cook until the meat is fall-apart tender.

You will enjoy this on and in so many dishes. It is great to make ahead and use in tacos, burritos, on a salad, and even on a sandwich. I love to make nachos with these carnitas too. No matter what you do with it, you are going to absolutely love this recipe.


With love from our Simple Kitchen to yours. 


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Check out some of our favorite copycat recipes:  Click on the image or the bold recipe title and it will open each one in a new tab.
Chipotle's Famous Barbacoa is the Mexican barbecue of my dreams.  Seared beef is slow cooked in a spectacular spicy adobo sauce and combination of flavors that create the perfect moist and tender Mexican shredded beef.  Prepared in the crockpot, it’s simple and delicious!

Best Ever Guacamole Chipotle's Restaurant Copycat is loaded with fresh avocado and bits of onion, jalapeno and citrus juices to perfectly balance this mildly spicy guacamole.
Chipotle Copycat Cilantro Lime Rice is a simple recipe that is sure to become a staple in your house. It is perfectly soft and sticky with a nutty, floral aroma. It has fresh cilantro speckled throughout and a bright flavor from citrus that makes this an incredible side dish that you are going to make again and again!

Chipotle Copycat Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

SERVES 10  |  ACTIVE TIME 15 Min  |  TOTAL TIME 6 Hours 15 Min

5-pound pork shoulder (also known as pork butt)
2 tablespoons extra light olive oil
2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
2 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
4 dried bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried rosemary (or 3 large fresh rosemary sprigs)
1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
1/2 cup water

Rinse pork roast under cool water. Pat dry with a paper towel (do not skip this step, patting it dry helps create less steam and creates a better sear).

Preheat a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Place pork on a plate and sprinkle on all sides, with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Once the oil is shimmering and hot, carefully place pork in a Dutch oven (do not wait or the seasoning will begin to draw out moisture). Sear each side. Allow pork to sizzle in the pan without touching it for at least 2 minutes.

The pork will naturally release from the pan once it is properly seared. If it is sticking to the bottom of the pan, it is most likely not seared yet. It will take 2-5 minutes per side. Reduce heat if the pan is getting too hot.

Add bay leaves to the bottom of  your crockpot (I use a 6-quart slow cooker), place pork on top of bay leaves and carefully pour remaining cooking liquid from your Dutch oven over the pork. Add 1/2 cup water to Dutch oven, return to medium-high heat. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to scrape the stuck browned bits from the bottom. Once the mixture is boiling, pour it over the pork in the slow cooker. Sprinkle rosemary, thyme and remaining salt and pepper into the slow cooker and over the pork. Flip the pork once to season the other side.

Cover and cook on high for 5-6 hours (alternately cook on low for 10-12 hours). When the pork is tender, use 2 forks to shred meat. Taste for seasoning, if necessary add salt to taste (mine did not need salt).

Stir to coat pork in cooking liquid. Cover and cook for 30-60 minutes to help the pork absorb the juices. Serve and enjoy!

DONNA'S NOTES: Do not use non-stick pans for searing. Cast iron or stainless steel are great alternates to the dutch oven.

You can use bone-in or boneless pork, but watch your cook time.

Searing the meat before placing it in the slow cooker adds another layer of flavor. While you could skip this step, I highly recommend taking the extra 15 minutes and doing it. Trust me the flavor is worth it!

If making this with fresh rosemary sprigs, I place them on the bottom of the slow cooker and put the pork roast on top.

Recipe developed by Donna Elick - The Slow Roasted Italian
Copyright ©2016 The Slow Roasted Italian – All rights reserved.


  1. Question: Are you using bone in or boneless pork butt?

    1. Hi Colleen, I prefer to use boneless pork because that is what I find most easily. But bone in would work as well too. Watch the pork with bone-in as it may cook faster. Enjoy and let us know how it goes.

  2. I think bone-in would actually mean it takes longer to cook. That being said, I loved Chipotle when I was able to try it in the states, we don't have it in the UK. I can't wait to try this!

    1. In my experience the bone-in shoulders/butts cook faster as the bone conducts heat. Either way, enjoy it and let me know how it goes!

  3. Do left overs freeze and reheat well?

    1. Yes. This recipe freezes and reheats very well. I scoop my left overs in plastic wrap or foil and place in a freezer bag. Then I remove and reheat. If you do not have a chance to defrost, add a tablespoon of water to your bowl that you are reheating in and cover your bowl before placing it in the microwave. It will help keep it moist. Enjoy and let me know how it goes.

  4. Do leftovers freeze and reheat well?


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